Dallas Jenkins isn’t worried about the multiplication.
No, we’re not talking about new math that made helping with homework nearly impossible for me after my kids hit the 3rd grade.
We’re talking about loaves and fishes.
The creator of The Chosen, a TV series based on the Life of Jesus of Nazareth, was in Logan Wednesday evening for the USU Arrington Lecture Series at the USU Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall.
Jenkins referenced several times the New Testament story of the feeding of the 5,000 wherein Jesus miraculously fed the large multitude with just five loaves and two fishes.
In creating The Chosen, Jenkins said his only goal as a filmmaker was to make an offering the Savior could use to bless many other people.
This is where the multiplication factor comes into play.
“It’s not your responsibility to feed the 5,000,” Jenkins shared with the full-capacity crowd made up primarily of college-age students. “It’s your responsibility to bring the loaves and fishes, and not worry about the multiplication.”
LOAVES AND FISHES
Jenkins described the sheer magnitude of making The Chosen as a “loaves and fishes” endeavor.
“I didn’t wake up thinking, ‘I’m going to do a show about Jesus and it’s going to be around the world, we’re going to raise the money with crowdfunding.’ I thought all those ideas are ridiculous. It’s just that I was in this ‘loaves and fishes’ position. Loaves and fishes, man, like, I’m just here to do what God has in front of me. I’m going to make sure that whatever I do provide, even if it doesn’t feel like five loaves and two fishes, it feels like half a loaf of bread and a mediocre fish, but I’m going to deliver it and if God deems it acceptable, then that’s when the transaction ends.”
SUCCESS OUT OF FAILURE
The concept for what would become “The Chosen” started in 2017 after Jenkins experienced a massive failure on a Hollywood project. The film “completely bombed” at the box office Jenkins told the crowd that failure led him to make a short film on a very small budget for his church in the Chicago area. Focused on the birth of Christ from the perspective of the shepherds. This short film was noticed by VidAngel, a Utah-based media streaming company, that led to a collaboration that raised more than $10 million through crowdfunding, one of the highest crowdfunded media projects in history.
“I was coming off a huge career failure. The beginning of 2017 was the lower point of my career and one of the lowest moments of my life. In just a couple of hours, I went from a director with a very bright future to a director with no future. In that moment, I was met by God more than any other moment in my life. God laid it on my heart so strongly and so powerfully and so clearly and explicitly that I needed to give my career to him. If that meant not doing another movie, then that was OK. For the first time in my life, I was genuinely OK with never making another movie. God’s presence was so strong in that moment that I just knew all I want to do is be where he wants me to be.”
HUMANIZING THE STORY OF JESUS
As a filmmaker and storyteller, Jenkins loved deeply exploring the stories of Jesus, especially the cultural and historical context, what he calls “the before.”
“All the things that we sometimes skip over. It feels like it’s such a human way into the story, and it worked. I resonated with it deeply and I thought, ‘A multiseason show gives you that time to really get to know the people who followed Jesus and get to know Jesus even better’.” His hope, Jenkins shared, “to honor God the best I can and portray his son as best I can.”
A simple line spoken by Jonathan Roumie, the actor who portrays Jesus, has become an unofficial theme for Jenkins. In the scene from the Season 1 of The Chosen, Jesus tells Simon Peter to “Get used to different” after calling Matthew who was a disliked tax collector.
“I think that’s what people are responding to with the show is not that the message is different, the gospel isn’t different, but they are seeing Jesus from a different perspective and it’s unblocking things, for me included, that I think have been in the way before.”
As an evangelical, Jenkins knew that people from various faiths would not all agree on how the story of Jesus was being told. He hoped, however, that the collective feeling created by the show would unite people despite any differences in theological beliefs.
“Friendship doesn’t always mean agreement. I don’t agree with everything, including some significant things with some of my LDS or Catholic partners on the show, but it’s a beautiful dialogue. I think any time we’re talking about Jesus and exploring the truth of the gospel of Jesus, and even our differences, I think it’s a good thing.”
“To me, one of the joys of this project is seeing the religious walls that come down when we’re focused on Jesus himself… It’s just been so beautiful to watch.”
MEET & GREET
After the conversation event was over, Jenkins greeted and posed for photos with many of those in attendance. Elisa and I waited in a throng of people for an hour for our chance to visit. In our brief conversation, we shared the impact watching The Chosen has had on us.
Elisa has been especially touched by the portrayal of Mary, the mother of Jesus. “She loved her son so much she was willing to be his follower and do all she could to take care of him.” Feeling deep emotions of gratitude and love, Elisa shared with Jenkins, “That is the same thing I would do for my children.”
I shared with Jenkins how I have also found tremendous hope in the stories told through The Chosen. The portrayal of the character of Simon Peter, his struggles with the normal demands of life such as providing for his family and fishing on Shabbat (Jewish sabbath), especially have touched my heart.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
If you have followed my journey for any amount of time, you know sharing personal thoughts is not out of character for me. This includes sharing elements of my spiritual and religious journey. I trust and hope today’s conversation has been enriching whatever your faith tradition is. Perhaps, as Dallas Jenkins hopes, if I bring my loaf and you bring your fish we can sit together and have a conversation of understanding.
Then just maybe, we will create that story of love and greatness we keep talking about.
Have a great Monday! Thanks for letting me share.
p.s. Take 13 minutes today to act upon one of your fears.
Lead Image credit The Chosen
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